Diamond gives us a peek into the Non Premier Publishers

Happy New Year!

As we enter 2011, there’s a feeling of uncertainty surrounding the comics publishing business. You’ve got lots of analysis about sales trends, you’ve got people talking about the fact that 100,000 copies of a single issue is now an aspirational goal versus a realistic one, you’ve got people noting that DC gained a rare tie with Marvel in December for Direct Market share. And, of course, you’ve got fears and lamentations from the likes of Brian Hibbs about the state of the industry.

But amidst all the data flying around about sales trends, Diamond released two lists that really piqued my curiosity: The Top 200 Non-Premier Comics and Graphic Novels.

What does “Non-Premier” mean? Very simply, those are the books that are sold by publishers in the BACK of Previews. More specifically, anyone other than Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, IDW and Image (the five premier publishers) would be eligible for this list.

Typically sales of the Non-Premier publishers are so small in the Direct Market as a percentage of total sales it’s hard to every really get a sense of how they’re doing against one another, or to see if certain lines are having more sustained success. The signal gets lost in the noise. Diamond’s Top 200 lists give us a rare window into those answers.

I'm not going to reproduce the entirety of both lists, but they can be found HERE

Top 200 Non-Premier Comics Observations
1) Dynamite = DY-NO-MITE!Jimmy Walker DYNO-MITE!
Dynamite Entertainment had a dominant year among non-premier publishers.
  • Held the top 6 spots
  • 9 of the top 10 spots
  • 19 of the top 20 spots
  • 27 of the top 30 spots
  • 88 of the total 200 spots
The decision to bring back the Green Hornet franchise appears to have been a wise one, particularly bring long-time comic book fave Kevin Smith into the equation. All six issues of Smith's Green Hornet series ranked in the top 12. Additionally, The Boys continues to be the most successful non-premier, non licensed work as all 12 issues plus the entirety of the Highland Laddie mini-series ranked well. With dominance of the non-Premier landscape like this, you have to wonder if it will be long before Dynamite becomes the next Premier publisher (remember IDW was added to the Premier tier just a short time ago).
2) Boom! Waid a plus, Lee a maybe but everything else a question mark
Boom! had reasonable success with its Mark Waid duo of Irredeemable and Incorruptible. All 24 issues of those two series ranked in the top 200, with most issues cracking the top 100. And the early issues of the Stan Lee-related titles (i.e., Soldier Zero, Traveler) also placed. But what about the rest of the Boom! catalog? Conspicuously absent from the Top 200 were any Boom! Kids and/or Disney related books. Perhaps that's why the line appears set for a 2011 shakeup?
3) Whither Avatar?
Avatar Press puts out a decent amount of content each month, and has become the effective publishing home for some of the industry's top writers, most notably Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Alan Moore. You would think those three writers (all at the top of the craft) would have the pull to get the Direct Market more interested in Avatar's catalog, yet the 2010 Top 200 doesn't necessarily back up that assertion. Only 16 issues ranked in the top 200 last year, with Alan Moore's Neonomicon #1 (16,293 copies) the best seller. The Crossed Family Values mini-series placed all six issues, but the last issue chimed in below 10,000 copies. I don't know the economics of the deals Avatar has with its creators, but it's hard to imagine these books are putting much money in their coffers at these levels. Will Avatar look to pare back its catalog in 2011, or is the goal more about breaking even and just getting the stories out there for consumption?
Top 200 Non-Premier Graphic Novels Observations
1) Scott Pilgrim 1-upped the rest of the marketScott Pilgrim Volume 6
The good news for Oni Press is the massive success of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. The sixth and final volume the series was the top ranking non-premier graphic novel, selling 33,597 copies in the Direct Market alone (I'm sure it sold tons more in the book market). What's more impressive is that Volumes 1-5 were the 2nd through 6th best selling graphic novels among non-premier publishers. In total, the six volumes of Scott Pilgrim sold 140,133 new units in 2010. 1-up! Now the bad news for Oni is that Scott Pilgrim is complete. It'll be next to impossible to replace the monster hit, but one has to wonder what their plans are internally for 2011 as it deals with L.A.P. (Life After Pilgrim).

Update – Oni Press Publisher Joe Nozemack  responds, "What's next for Oni, is that we'll continue to publish unique creator-owned comics and bring fans the best of current and up and coming talent. Who could have predicted that Scott Pilgrim would have been such a huge success seven years ago when volume one premiered and who can predict which of our titles will be next?  We're excited about continuing on the path we started 14 years ago that got us where we are today."

2) The One Piece conundrum (Manga sales don't match Japanese phenomenon)
Have you ever heard of One Piece? If you're an American comics reader, you're not alone. But for the record, One Piece is the best-selling comic book series of all time. It's so successful, in fact, that creator Eiichiro Oda has attained rock star status in Japan, with it recently being reported he makes $24 million per year! In other words, he makes Robert Kirkman look like a street pauper. The long-running series has sold over 200 MILLION volumes to date. And yet, sales in the U.S. market have been tepid at best. While 30 volumes of the manga ranked on the Top 200, the average sales were just over 1,000 units. To think that only 1,000 copies of this book are sold in the Direct Market here, while tens of millions of copies sell in Japan, is hard to rationalize.
3) Fragmentation and lack of volume
To say it's tough for Non-Premier publishers to rely on the Direct Market would be an understatement. Only 48 graphic novels sold more than 3,000 units in the Direct Market last year according to Diamond. To put that into perspective, keep in mind that conservative estimates put the number of comic book stores at 3,000-4,000. So if something sells less than 3,000 units, it's akin to selling less than one copy per store nationwide. Unlike the comics list, where Dynamite had a dominant market share, the sales of graphic novels is far more balanced. While Viz had 56 of the 200, which seems fairly dominant, keep in mind that sales of the average Viz book sold 2,148 units. Beyond Viz, 32 other publishers placed at least one book in the Top 200.
It's always difficult to draw sweeping conclusions from these lists, although Diamond's near monopolistic position in the Direct Market does make them representative of the vast majority of sales in the LCS market. What's evident from these lists though, is that even the most successful publishers in the back of Previews (i.e., Dynamite, Boom!, Viz, Oni), absolutely have to continue to push their content into other channels. Because the numbers they're doing outside of the occasional outlier hit (e.g., Scott Pilgrim or Green Hornet) inside the Direct Market are by no means robust.


Jason Wood is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.


  1. Jason, you’d know better than I would so I figured I’d ask. Are book store (non direct market comic sales) counted with data like this? I used to work in a Barnes and Noble and can tell you that Manga moved a hell of a lot faster there than it does in any comic shop I’ve ever been in. Just curious. 

    Awesome article, as always. 

  2. @Anson17  No, as the article states, this is Direct Market sales (i.e. comic book stores’ orders from Diamond, only)

  3. @Anson17 As Conor noted, this is just for the direct market (i.e., what Diamond serves). The majority of sales in the non-direct market are covered through a company called BookScan, which doesn’t provide the data freely. That said, Brian Hibbs generally does an annual look at the comics sales via BookScan in his column, which usually comes out in January, early February.

  4. I’m sorry, I should have phrased my comment better. I asked in light of the part about One Piece not selling well. I should have said “Could those unkown book store sales bring America manga readers more in line with Japanese manga readers?”

  5. I wouldn’t exactly say One Piece is unknown to American audiences, as it’s up there in the ranks of popular manga like Bleach, Naruto and Death Note.

  6. @comicBOOKchris  I’d never heard of it before this article.

  7. @Anson Ah, good question. Well manga certainly has sold very well in traditional book stores relative to the direct market in the past, so I’m sure One Piece is having success there. That said, manga sales have been plummeting in the last few years in the U.S. (book stores and comic stores alike) and so I wouldn’t expect the book stores to paint a massively brighter picture. Here is a link to Brian Hibbs’ article from last year where he goes into the BookScan data, and he talks quite a bit about manga sales (as well as DC and Marvel).


  8. @conor Is that sarcasm? I don’t read manga, but I’ve heard of One Piece (Vince at 11 o’clock). As for the trade sales… Most of my trades and hardcovers (to which I’m an addict) are “non-premier” and “not direct market”.  I buy my trades almost completely from Amazon… or InStock… does InStock count as direct? The only time I buy them from my LCS is when they’re marked half-off years later.

  9. Interesting.  Looks like Kevin Smith can still move comics.  I wonder if those Green Hornet books are profitable.  I can’t imagine he comes cheap.

  10. @conor  @comicBOOKchris  I’m not a manga reader, but I knew bout One Piece as well. as chris says, It’s up there with the usual big manga titles.

    Jason, maybe you can re-visit this topic , with the bookscan numbers to give a combined clearer picture of overall sales?

  11. @RedMoses  It’s not sarcasm.

  12. I was really surprised to see that The Outfit didn’t crack the top 200.  

    I’m not convinced that direct sales of trades are any sort of barometer of industry health.  Aside from sales, most trades are sold full price at comic stores.  If I, as a reasonable person, know that I can get the same exact book for less and delivered to my house from a site like Amazon, that’s where I’m going to get it.

  13. So, anyway to get non-DM sales numbers?  It would be great to see the total numbers for SCOTT PILGRIM or THE OUTFIT.

    As to Oni losing SP, it reminds me of when the Sopranos finally ended and HBO had to contend with a flood of lost subscriptions. What do you do when one property is so much of your revenue?

  14. @ato220 Parker the Outift is an IDW book, which is a Premier publisher

  15. Nice article.  I’ve always felt that while Avatar has a few top writers putting out product, their line tends to the extreme (e.g. Crossed, Black Summer, etc.), which likely hurts sales.

    I’d love to know what effect, if any, Haven would have to the final Direct Market figures.  I imagine its a drop in the bucket, but I know they carry Boom and a few other titles in Previews.

  16. One Piece is awesome. Just wanted to say.

  17. @Suicidalkangarooz  I disagree. It is NOT awesome. It’s your typical “modern” shonen manga that shares many trappings with Jump’s other rather vanilla titles. These tropes include but are not limited to: forced humor that is often miss for outside audiences (akin to BoBoBo), shameless fanservice, poorly designed and convoluted panels, and finally a repeated formula and overall static story telling (compared to other manga).

    In a way it’s best to think of it as the WoW of comics with the next arc being the next “bigger badder badguy”. It’s quite AkiraToriyama in that aspect.

    I weep for those who remember the days of Space Adventure Cobra and Violence Jack being a “shonen” manga in the 80s.

    Anyways to give a little background on how Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece sells so well it’s essentially all attributed to a drastic shift in appealing to newer demographics. That is to say, the demographic of “shonen” transforming to catch up to the newer, more popular interests of their major buyers in the market. The problem  with this is that “what’s popular” in Japan is a polar opposite to what’s popular in North America and interests of North American buyers. Aside from the apologetic “teen hipster & otaku” fan (the majority of which comprised of people born after 1989) North American anime viewers are turned off by the current trends of moe/shota/loli, furry-infested, highschool pretty boys who pilot mechs, and battle-of-the-week monotony that’s plagued current anime and manga in the shonen field.

    To explain how this happened I’ll need to give a quick recap of 2000-2010.

    Real quick: the demographic market of “shonen” in the early aughts changed DRASTICALLY during the boom of anime in the west. It almost seemed like North America couldn’t get enough of anime and it was on its way to being perceived as a legitimate form of entertainment in the mainstream audience at the time. Titles like Ghost In the Shell were coveted and flying off shelves and more volumes were to be shipped in later years. What happened? New Japanese trends* invaded the manga market. *see italicized above. Which inevitably invaded the domestic versions of the anime in local stores here in North America. A lot of things can be said as to what happened then: american piracy (because Japanese tend to not pirate out of cultural upbringing), bandai prices, and perhaps the largest culprit: lolicon purchasing, but I won’t get into that, that’s a whole other tangent.

    To give a more concrete example: a roomate of mine who was a perfect fit for the “jock” stereotype had grown extremely interested ‘s franchise and even went so far as to buy the older movies and the entire line of English localized manga in his LCS. Every now-and-then we keep in touch from time to time and I always ask what he’s reading. Nada. And this isn’t just limited to him. Last year I had a highschool reunion where I met old buddies who were familiar and read manga occasionally but also fit this stereotype pretty well. To my dismay I realized none of them read manga any longer. They weren’t aware of phrases such as “shonen” or “seinin” titles. They grouped it all in one. It was then I realized that these days Average Joe, for the most part, probably won’t touch shonen manga with a 10 foot pole. And say what you will about their ignorance of the genre demographics but they are AVERAGE Joe.
    And So….

    At the end of the day: western audiences are vastly different. One Piece aired both in dub and in sub in North America. And both times the show (both censored and uncensored) failed. This is a factor to consider in what is popular in the japanese culture and what may be “successful” in general.  It’s all about tastes when it comes down to it. Death Note was extremely popular in Japan and among Otaku alike, but as I recall many ifanboy visitors disliked it.

    Hope this was insightful or at least entertaining.

  18. One Piece is awesome, definitely the best manga I’ve ever read (I don’t read a lot of manga so that’s not really THAT big of a deal, but w/e)

  19. @pppiquer  did you read what I posted?

  20. I get Irredemable, Incoruptible and 28 days Later from Boom. I also have a number of Avatar books I get. Crossed FV is great bloody tension filled apocalyptic fun with a twist. Dont get me wrong. I LUVS ME SOME ZOMBIES! Thanks again Avatar for NOTLD!  Muppet/Pixar books dont work direct market and if it doesnt work direct market then it wont work in a 22 page monthly format.  Make them manga sized digests if you are looking to hit the younger market.
    BTW manga sux.

  21. @mangaman   I haven’t kept with the jargon, but since I found out what Robotech was based on in the ’90’s I really enjoyed anime.  That was until about 3-4 years ago.  I just felt the mature story driven series and movies just weren’t making it over here anymore.  No more GitS series, Planets, Cowboy Bebop, Captain Harlock, or there ilk.  I believe part of this had to do with the us importer shake up, but all I seem to see in the shelves of the Best Buy are the mindless stuff like One Piece, or the really bad 3D stuff.   I still think the breaking up of most series into a single season ark with a beginning, middle, and END is a far better way to tell stories then the way we do it here in the US with TV series that are never ending (both comedies and definitely dramas).

    Since it sounds like you have similar taste @mangaman, can you recomend any recent (say last year) anime series that I should be checking out?



  22. Piracy is a HUGE factor for One Piece. Most fans aren’t even aware that it is a real product that you can buy in stores.

  23. @Cormac, One Piece seems to be doing pretty well…

  24. @JohnNevets  I have never been more happier in my entire life: *rolls sleeves* Here goes:

    This is purely 2oo9 and 2o1o

    0. RedLine trailer 1 & trailer 3 – I say 0 because it was aired at special screenings but not released in theatres yet. It’ll be out this year from what I hear. I haven’t seen this either but “colonydrop” has never steered me wrong: “This Cartoon Will Punch You In The Face”

    1. Darker Than Black – The best transition from mainstream comics into anime. Both available in Dub and sub. Think Heroes but done very well. Has only one anime-ism: It’s set in Tokyo. But aside from that I think you will enjoy this. Be ware of episode 7 & 8 (slight moei parody)

    2. Teppen Tengen Gurren Langan – This series… It’s REALLY hard not to spoil this series to you so I’ll be very frank: it’s a mecha series much akin to Robotech in the “Super Robots” style. There are tons of mysteries but they usually all get solved pretty quickly with well paced plot development. The twists you will not see coming. Just expect the tone to change drastically.

    3. Cobra (the new series) – Are you familiar with Space Adventure Cobra? Love Love Love that series. This new one isn’t too bad either. Retains most of it’s original tone. Well recommended.

    4. Eden of the East – This is a REALLY original story. The Premise is people given the chance to save their country’s (Japan) economy with a cell phone tied to 100 million dollars (in Yen) in their own seperate accounts. The first person to save Japan’s economy lives. The losers die. If you spend all your money before saving the economy you also die. There’s a lot of mysteries here. Very Bourne Identity-ish though.

    5. Spice And Wolf – fantasy world from the point of view of a merchent. It focuses on economy and trade rather than swords and magic BUT the journey’s keep you well entertained and when you’re done you’ll feel like you went on a walk with two really good friends. The dialogue is phenomenal. You’d think Bendis wrote this show.

    6. The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk I strongly suggest this if you have ever played an rpg of any sort. This show encapsulates all the tropes in an exciting and humorous manner. Watch past episode 1. Episode 1 is misleading. Episode 2 is what the show is about. Episode 1 is just humor, minor character developement and world building.

    Runner Ups.
    Arakawa Under the Bridge – About a young man (in his 20s?) who falls in love with essentially a homeless runaway. Watch episode 1 only. The show is funny but the other episodes are more of the same.
    Durarara!! – This show…. this show is sooo wierd. It’s about a dullahan   courier who get’s involved with an internet anonymous gang called “Dollars” and all the chaos that ensues between them in the wierd community of Ikebukura, Tokyo.
    Heroman – Stanlee created it… so it’s gotta be good. No I’m serious it’s pretty funny.
    Summer Wars – it’s a movie but it has trappings of a disney film. The only problem is its lack of dangerous stakes. It’s basically about a kid being dragged by a friend to pretend being her boyfriend while a dangerous virus hacks various servers in an attempt to cause mayhem in Society.
    Shin Mazinger Shougeki – It’s kind of a retelling of the original Super Robots Shin Mazinger Z story but it’s very nicely put together I suggest at least checking trailers outside of youtube to see if its for you. I’d post one up but I couldn’t decide which one was most appropriate. They all go out of their way to give a bad depiction of the show really.

    Well that’s it for now John. I’m sure there’s one I’m forgetting but I’m fairily sure I got the best in terms of good shows from 2009 and 2010 up there. I hope this was somewhat helpful, alot of these titles I had come upon by luck because I walked in on someone else watching their copy of the series or by word of mouth alone. Redline is the one exception though.

  25. @jmsnyder  manga are just like comics, they don’t suck, it could just be the type of manga you may not like that you are forced to see on shelves. I certainly understand that and have been there myself. Which is why I hope to never end up on the wrong floor of a Japanese comic shop.

  26. @jashcraft1014  Talking about One Piece in the US here. It was available for years in scanlations before the official versions popped up, like many series, and now many folks are just conditioned not to pay for it, it seems. I know folks who are devoted to both the anime and the manga but have never dropped a dime on it. 

    (I don’t get it myself – seems like just another Dragon Ball-esque kids story to me but I only read the first volume)

  27. the direct market continues to be the path of death for comics. surprised publishers are NOT making huge efforts to get back into grocery & convenient stores. comics should have a huge display at stores like toys ‘r us.

  28. @iSpiderMan  It’s not the the comic book companies don’t WANT to be back in those places.

  29. @iSpiderMan — i’ve seen comics for sale in Toys R Us in the action figure aisle along with the the other branded stuff like T shirts.  Like 10 books that have characters that related to the toys in that aisle. Its a start, but i think 1. comics are too expensive for kids at Direct market pricing 2. and you have an uphill attention span battle in a place like Toys R US. Its definitely the LAST thing you’d notice with all that other big stuff around you. 

    I really think the traditional retail like drug stores and grocery is the way to go. 

  30. @iSpiderMan The Direct market evolved because of the newsstand pushing comics out, not the other way around. Newsstands were having trouble justifying the low cost and shelf space requirements of comics, and were favoring other types of products for their shelves, including glossier magazines and other sundries. 

  31. @Cormac The first volume of One Piece doesn’t really do it justice.

    I, like many, found the series in scans and read it that way first. I’ve since bought all of it I can find but seeing how little of the story is in each volume is kind of shocking if you’ve just read it all the way through like I did.

  32. Updated the original article with an official response from Oni Press.

  33. @wallythegreenmonster  OMG YESS!!! I don’t know about other fans but I have been more inclined to buy comics impulsively at my local grocery store than anywhere else. Even stuff I would have never tried. God help me I would actually BUY a Jeff Loeb book from a Safeway.